This is the second in a series of articles on character, excerpted from my new book, How to Run Your Business by THE BOOK: A Biblical Blueprint to Bless Your Business. Last week’s article was, Are Your Pants on Fire? This week I will discuss keeping commitments and swearing to your own hurt.
Many leaders make casual promises. Some, they never intend to keep: “I’ll call you later and we’ll talk about it.” “If you keep doing a good job, we’ll take a hard look at you when the next management slot opens up.” Other commitments they intend to fulfill, but go back on their word when the price gets too high. They have no trouble justifying their failure to follow through as they explain that “things have changed”. I’m speaking from experience in this regard, and there is one particular incident where I didn’t fulfill my commitment that continues to cause me regret.
I had volunteered to teach a leadership course in Moscow, twice per year, for three years. There were hundreds of leaders who came to the first five of six seminars I had agreed to conduct. However, the leadership team in Moscow that hosted me had been skimming money from the organization that put on the events, as well as from me personally as they double-billed the sponsor and me for like expenses. We had confronted them over these issues twice, as they plead ignorance and promised to put stricter measures in place to ensure it didn’t happen again. When it did happen again during my fifth journey to Russia, I decided that I had enough and that I would not return. I was indignant at being cheated, used every logical argument for not returning and convinced myself that not completing my sixth seminar would serve as a lesson that might encourage more ethical behavior in the future. The problem with my decision, is that regardless of how I spun it, the bottom line was that I was failing to do what I had agreed to do three years prior. I should have kept my word, even though it became unpleasant or costly. At least that’s what THE BOOK says in Psalms 15:4: He who swears to his own hurt and does not change….will never be moved.
Swearing to your own hurt, means that you’ll do what you said you’d do, when you said you’d do it and how you said you’d do it, even if it becomes more costly, inconvenient or time-consuming than you estimated. In retrospect, I should have returned to Moscow, conducted my final conference, dismissed the corrupt board and then announced that no one from the organization I represented would ever return to work in their city again until there are ethical leaders in place to work with.
Cutting Expenses or Breaking a Promise? In tough economic times, business leaders may be tempted to compromise their character in order to save a buck or two. They begin to back out of agreements they signed their name to; a name that was accepted and assumed as honorable by the other party. Under the guise of “cutting back” they renege on promises to customers, vendors and employees. If in the good times, your mouth wrote checks that your bank account can no longer cash, carefully weigh both the legal and moral cost of breaking your word. Cutting expenses is necessary and understandable, but breaking promises is not. It cheapens and diminishes you both as an organization and as a human being. Anyone failing to fulfill an agreement they signed becomes a certifiable liar and a probable cheat.
To build a rock-solid character, do the following:
- Count the cost. Before you commit to anything, make certain that you can live with the worst case scenario resulting from what you’re saying “yes” to. Understand that there are no “little” commitments to the person you’re committing to!
- Seek God’s wisdom before deciding. Check with trusted counselors who have nothing to gain or lose, either way, from your decision.
- Follow through. Do what you said you’d do. Regardless of the cost—and don’t let those last four words cause you to compromise your character!
Excerpted from How to Run Your Business by THE BOOK: A Biblical Blueprint to Bless Your Organization.”
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